Losing Someone We Love

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(This is an excerpt from the book Sunset.)

I did not know I had so many tears. I have tried to hide most of them. Not that I am ashamed of tears, but seeing them in my eyes brings them too often to the cheeks of others, and I would not spread sorrow too widely. Yet there is a cleansing of the soul through the eyes. Tears release sadness that must not dominate, leaving only love, somewhat older, wiser, calmer, and yet renewed, reborn, freshened, enlarged, flowering. The soul was not made by God to be sorrow’s home. He would have us happy. We open the doors and windows and let sorrow out. We learn from the memory of its visits, then let the breezes of continued living clear the air. We learn to breathe again, to walk in the sunlight. Love, joy, peace, each other are the true inhabitants, and we would not crowd them unnecessarily.

I wrote the above shortly after my wife’s passing. Writing has become, with the tears, my release. To be honest, I am trying to survive, as well as to learn from those dream-breaking moments. There has been a continent shift in my life that will be understood by many who have been where I am. Grief is love’s shadow. It is cast over me now by the loss of Laurie, but it need not block the sunlight. That light is always shining above the clouds somewhere, and though I cannot currently feel its rays, I assume she can, and there is comfort in that.

I am trying to learn death’s lessons, and surely one of them is how much life is a gift, one we cannot treasure too closely. There is too much of the divine in it. Often, in the night, I have listened for hours to Laurie’s labored breathing next to me. What a wonderful thing it is to draw another breath. King Benjamin once reminded his people to be grateful to God who is “preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath” (Mosiah 2:21). Why did he use the verb lending? I wonder.

These have been days of pain but also of profound love and gratitude. I have kept a small notebook near me during the last weeks and months wherein I have tried to record what I was learning about living and loving and grieving. I did not initially intend it for publication, but somewhere along the journey I was reminded that we are under divine injunction and sacred covenant to share our burdens, our mourning, our comforts, and our witnesses. To that end, and by way of tribute to the woman I love, I offer my own passage, desiring that it may lift others who share the path with me or who will one day find themselves on the same road hoping someone left a few signposts to help them find their way. I have not aimed at chronology or organizational order in my thoughts, for they did not arrive from life that way—and to be truthful I am still trying to make sense of all that has passed throughout the last months.

I am taking my first footsteps in grief’s journey through the changing landscape of my life without Laurie. Perhaps to call it an odyssey would be more descriptive, for that word suggests a predetermined direction, and there is no doubt in the desired ending place. In the Greek classic, Odysseus bent all his efforts, which were arduous and occupied years, toward returning to the love of Penelope and Telemachus, his wife and son, whom he left behind when he went to the Trojan wars. His multiple endeavors were in time bounteously rewarded with a homecoming rooted in the lasting and continued love of both wife and child. That welcome more than recompensed him for the obstacles he had encountered and the loneliness he had endured. Separation sends us on our own personal journey, ever yearning for those from whom we have parted. Grief is a searching, desiring emotion. It is the heart’s hunger—the soul reaching out, stretching itself beyond mortality’s boundaries. We do not merely miss the departed, we long for them, deeply, as Odysseus longed for Penelope. Yet, are we not assured by the promises of our own hearts, as well as those of the gospel, that the homecoming will be worth the paths we have walked, no matter how long or how difficult the road may have been? I am beginning that odyssey.

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